An internal customer is basically anybody within the organization who depends on you to provide a service or a product, which in turn is used to create the final product which will be delivered to the customer.
It takes into account a multi-layered approach to the customer service process.
The key difference, however, with internal customers is that they do not have the choice to move away from your service and contact a competitor, so the challenge is not to hold on to your internal customers, but to provide them with service so efficiently that they are in turn able to put their best foot forward, for the interests of the whole company at large.
There are call center software specifically designed to make internal service better and push a domino effect towards the final deliverable.
How you serve your internal customers has a direct correlation to how external customers perceive your brand, because one is dependent on the other.
It is next to impossible to be providing quality external service, if the company is not offering excellent internal service as well.
In this article, we will discuss a few guidelines which are helpful in providing better internal call center solutions, how they become important in the bigger picture, what effects they have on the final external consumer, and how companies should be implementing them in order to draw out the best from their agents and maximize productivity.
1. Set clear expectations.
As an internal service provider, you can typically avoid too many occurrences of last minute requests, rushed orders or unconventional demands if you have a clear protocol with respect to setting the expectations.
Your customers work in the industry, so they understand how some processes can be time-sensitive.
Therefore, allowing a better understanding about what they need and how they should go about asking for it increases your efficiency and makes subsequent actions flow more smoothly.
2. Maintain clarity with customers about progress.
Your company deals with external customers who obviously do not care for the details of your internal process, as long as they get their work done.
You must keep them updated on the process, explain how your multi-layered service processes work and assure them of the quality of work being done, so that there are no surprises, no unrealistic demands and better overall satisfaction on part of both, the external customer as well as the internal customer.
3. Create team-building exercises.
With internal customer service, the team is more important than ever.
Processes simply will not flow unless people work together and prioritize the overall needs of the company over their own targets or their own needs.
Managers need to ensure that this process happens quickly, so they should arrange for exercises where agents have to work side by side with other agents, and their collaborative effort would determine the success of the activity.
4. Create service standards.
Before a strategy is actually implemented on a ground level, managers need to analyze its strength and weaknesses, evaluate how well it fits their current business model, cover the risks that might accrue from such a move and estimate the consequences of deployment.
In doing so, they dictate a standard of service to be provided not just to external customers, but to internal customers as well.
Adhering to these service standards allows the work to be done more efficiently and then the internal customers can go on to delivering better service themselves.
5. Train your employees.
Adequate training is required for internal agents.
Firstly, they need to recognize the differences that come up with this specialized job.
They also need to learn on how to use dedicated internal service strategies, adhere to specialized KPIs, use the technology associated with it, and learn what they need to know about their customers and how to approach the problems they are likely to face.
6. Monitor performance and suggest changes.
Managers have a significant role to play in the smooth functioning of internal service.
They are the ones who know the business end to end, therefore, they are in the best position to evaluate the practices of the agents, monitor their performance, identify the root cause of the issues that creep up and propose solutions to them which can be implemented by the agents in question.
Managerial intervention can help to maximize efficiency by quite a margin when done rightly.
7. Communicate frequently and clearly.
When the organization’s workforce gets divided into different teams and groups with specialized purposes, communication is the key to ensure that it all adds up to a coherent result.
In the case of internal service agents, they need to be in the constant communication with each other to update themselves on work progress, their internal customers to realize requirement factors, their managers for feedback and strategy changes as well as other departments in case the solution requires a collaborative effort.
8. Stress on inter-department development.
Call centers usually get through the common queries pretty quickly and easily.
The more complicated queries tend to create a bottleneck because very often they require inputs for more than one specialized department.
To facilitate fast solutions for such problems, departments needs to be actively encouraged to grow together.
They should stay in frequent touch, access a public repository of knowledge, and share cases together.
9. Push your agents to think on their feet.
Not every situation will go as the theory books would tell you.
In fact, agents are often faced with unforeseen situations or encountering a new problem with an undocumented solution as yet.
In such situations, they need to quickly formulate a working plan and provide some solution that takes care of the problem as far as possible.
Managers should push their agents to come up with new and innovative solutions.
10. Invest in the requisite technology.
It’s very hard to produce acceptable results without the backing of appropriate technological tools.
For the internal call center system to function properly, managers need to provide their agents with proper software tools which can store and retrieve data quickly, analyze information and project results, guide the agents regarding fulfilling the requirements, set up automated services, build alert systems for important events, etc.
Technology can make the difference in a competitive market.
11. Show employees the bigger picture.
Employees would not be able to understand, what they are doing, in an internal service setup, unless they are given the details about what happens after they provide their service, and how their job impacts the tasks of their customers, who then work with what they have to deliver a final product to the external customer.
Once they know the entire process, they will appreciate their contribution to the final result in an additional way and work in an efficient manner.
12. Anticipate needs.
Most of the common needs that pop up in terms of internal contact centers can be anticipated beforehand.
Agents and managers alike should keep a track of the goings with respect to external customers, in order to effectively anticipate the needs of internal customers.
The work flows much better if internal customers are served preemptively, so that they waste minimal time in gathering resources and can provide service much more quickly.
13. Identify the highest-priority processes.
In internal customer service, one of the key things to keep in mind is the priority of the issue you are dealing with.
Under normal circumstances, you would give preference to a job you are in the midway through completing before you take on another one, but in case a high priority requirement comes along, you need to serve that first, as it is critical for the company to be able to get its solution before anything else.
14. Clearly identify roles, responsibilities and timelines.
When agents are assigned jobs in internal customer service, very often there can be an ambiguity in the responsibilities given to them.
This leads to further confusion down the line, with agents unsure of what are their job roles and subsequently doing bits and pieces of each other’s work, which harms the team and the overall output.
Clear job roles needs to be defined, and clear deadlines needs to be set so that there is no ambiguity in the implementation of processes.
15. Map process flow between the departments.
As a manager, you need to keep a track of where a current process is, who is overseeing it, how it is travelling between departments, and whether the right order is being followed or not.
Ensuring that the right sequences of events actually occur is important otherwise it creates a bottleneck and work is stalled.
Process flow maps needs to be adhered to systematically, so that the internal customers are served more effectively.
16. Treat the internal customer as your own client.
There is no reason to relax simply because the internal customer is someone from the organization itself.
Surely, the customer would know the workings of the company and would be likely to understand your situation in a better way , but he still has the obligation to serve his own external client, and therefore will not be willing to make compromises for your benefit.
Treating him as any other client helps agents stay professional and delivers additional efficient service.
17. Give agents some autonomy for decision making.
Sometimes, situations dictate that agents think on their feet, go off script and come up with an innovative solution that pleases the customer.
Giving agents rein to act on their gut feelings is a good idea because it lets them be more invested in the job and keeps them more alert to the situations.
Their autonomous decisions must be monitored, however, and checked if the results do not come along.
18. Process feedback from the internal customers.
Internal customers have the unique position of being customers to certain agents, and agents to certain customers.
Therefore, they would know the both sides of the coin, and be in a good position to provide meaningful feedback to the internal customer service agents.
Agents, in turn, should value this feedback, since it is a reflection of outside impressions, and work on it to improve their service levels.
19. Do not have internal service agents working in isolation.
Internal service agents are most effective when they are in touch with the final output of the business as well.
Therefore, it is a good idea to keep your internal service agents aware of the final result of their efforts.
Working in isolation deprives them of a sense of purpose, or diminishes their impression of their own contribution to the larger goal.
This affects their motivation, and consequently their performance, leading to a drop in productivity across the board.
20. Keep job roles flexible and adaptable.
Internal agents serve as per the requirement.
Their entire job is dependent on the requirements of external customers and in a ripple effect, the internal customers.
Therefore, they should be able to adapt to whatever the situation demands quickly and efficiently.
Their job roles should be flexible.
This does not, however, mean that they should be ambiguous.
Jobs should be communicated with clarity, but may be subject to change as new projects come in and new processes are put into motion.
Internal agents play a critical role in the working of the organization.
An external customer may not even realize how their solutions have been impacted by those working behind the scenes, providing the first steps of the telemarketing software solutions they now have.
These agents keeps the company moving forward and collaborate to come up with better and more innovative answers.
Companies need to support their internal service executives with the best call center software to help their analytics and automation aspects.
They should also employ training and skill development programs to ensure that agents stay ahead of the game.
As we can see, strengthening the internal process of customer service helps in providing better service overall, and driving up productivity of the entire organization.
Armed with the right call center software solutions, internal agents can provide a solid base on which external agents can work to produce a high level of quality in their customer service.
Investing in your internal agents will surely help your company grow and reach the new heights.